British photographer Max Miechowski recently won first place in LensCulture’s 2024 Portrait Awards with his series Land Loss. The series depicts Britain’s East Coast, the country’s and Europe’s fastest-eroding coastline, a side effect of the rising sea levels caused by climate change.

Photograph of Max Miechowski. Image courtesy of Atmos.

The series captures the seaside’s rapid land degradation and the intimate lives of coastal residents. It shows Miechowski’s audiences how locals persist despite climate change disrupting their surroundings, eroding their backyards and causing landslides on their roads. 

The series of images creates a powerful call for immediate climate action, one that won’t only help the British coastal residents in the photographs but also everyone else who lives in similar coastal communities across the planet. This aligns his piece with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Climate Action.

Photograph part of the Land Loss series by Max Miechowski. Image courtesy of Atmos.

“I expected to find storms, rough seas, ruined houses falling into the waves. A sense of urgency from the people living on the edge of a landscape where entire towns have been lost to the North Sea. Instead, the land felt still, the waters were calm, and time moved slowly,” said Miechowski in an interview with Atmos.

Just as he had described, Land Loss has a still, dream-like quality. His photographic style uses warm natural light to his advantage. The results are images of ravaged lands that appear serene and tranquil. If viewers did not know the context behind these images, they might even perceive them as any other picturesque landscape photography.

Photograph part of the Land Loss series by Max Miechowski. Image courtesy of Atmos.

The series boasts 30 photographs that include the landscape’s details. This means Miechowski has captured everything from cracks in the asphalt to cracks in residents’ windows. The photographs act as a poetic symbol of how, despite the idyllic seaside town lives the residents are maintaining, the threat of land degradation lurks just below its cozy surface. 

Photograph part of the Land Loss series by Max Miechowski. Image courtesy of Atmos.

Land erosion is a natural process that occurs in islands. However, climate change and rising sea levels have aggravated wave movements, which in turn have accelerated land erosion. The United Kingdom’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) identified in 2022 that an estimated 520,000 properties will be affected by immediate land erosion, 370,000 of which are family homes.

At current rates, the British Geological Survey (BGS) has estimated that by 2050, this number will only affect 1.25 million properties. This large number still excludes affected national infrastructure and property, including around 1,600 kilometres of major roads and 650 kilometres of major railway lines.

Photograph part of the Land Loss series by Max Miechowski. Image courtesy of Atmos.

This is why projects such as Miechowski’s Land Loss go a long way toward helping the public confront land erosion with the urgency and openness it requires. 

Miechowski’s choice to present Land Loss as a romanticized picture of life on the shores also helps the series draw in a larger number of audiences. People tend to be drawn to its nostalgic feel, which represents fleeting summer memories, an aesthetic that has come to represent the ephemeral nature of life on the British seaside. 

Photograph from the Land Loss series by Max Miechowski. Image courtesy of Atmos.

“It was worth it, they’d say, to see the sunrise and hear the birds and the waves. If only for a few more years,” summarized Miechowski.

Find out more about Max Miechowski’s Land Loss and their other pieces by checking their Instagram on @maxmiechowski.

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